From the Tour circus to the Air Force, and back to the Tour
Without World War I, our compatriot might have won a record number of victories in the biggest cycling event in the world, Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain each hold 5 Tour victories. But our countryman Philippe Thys might have been able to leave those cycling legends behind without the First World War. Thys, who lived in Anderlecht, achieved his first Tour victory in 1913 at the age of 22. A year later he did that trick again. The little mountain goat seemed to set the tone for years. But after that, World War I threw a spanner in the works. The Tour was canceled 4 times in a row (1915-1918). Thys joined the Belgian Air Force. His competitors Petit-Breton, Faber, and Lapize did not survive the war. In the first post-war edition in 1919, Thys had to stop due to stomach problems. In 1920, exactly 100 years ago, the Belgian was at the start of the Tour in which he would win his 3rd overall victory. A record that would last for 35 years.